Italy Under-21 coach Pierluigi Casiraghi has described tomorrow's UEFA European Championship qualifier against Croatia as "a year's work in 90 minutes."
The Azzurrini could have secured their place in the play-offs for next summer's finals last Friday but they were held to a 1-1 draw by Greece.
Casiraghi's men must now avoid defeat against the second-placed Croats to clinch the play-off spot and avoid a nervy night of mathematical calculations for one of the best four runner-up spots.
"It is a crucial game for us and for Croatia," Casiraghi stressed.
"It's quite a paradox to be top of the Group but have everything go down to the last 90 minutes.
"It's almost the game of a lifetime because we are playing to protect a whole year's work."
Casiraghi's job, along with his assistant Gianfranco Zola, also hang in the balance after they took charge of Italy's disappointing Olympic campaign in Beijing this summer, adding to the poor showing at the last European Championship finals in the Netherlands last year.
"Personally I don't feel under pressure," he insisted. "Being a coach means learning to deal with good times and tough times.
"Over the last few days we have been working on recovering physically and mentally and I am convinced that we won't fail against Croatia."
Group 1 - Standings:
 ITA - PLD: 09 - PTS: 23
 CRO - PLD: 09 - PTS: 21
 GRE - PLD: 09 - PTS: 15
 ALB - PLD: 09 - PTS: 11
 FAR - PLD: 09 - PTS: 04
 AZE - PLD: 09 - PTS: 02
Group 1 - Remaining Fixtures:
Tuesday 9 September
Croatia v Italy (1800 UK Time, +1hr for Italy/CET)
Greece v Faroe Islands (1800)
Wednesday 10 September
Albania v Azerbaijan (1600)
Source: C4 Football Italia